Arts & crafts

The May Fair – a poem

26 May 2022 | Written by By Ruth Dudley

[Pictured above is a photograph taken by Ruth of Mayor at The May Fair in 2016.]

Throughout May, members who attended our creative writing workshops have been exploring themes of nostalgia and local history, to celebrate Local History Month. We are pleased to be sharing some of the creative work they produced.

The May Fair in my hometown dates back nearly 900 years and is one of the largest in the country. It takes over the town centre, filling what were once it’s sheep and cattle markets. It is eagerly awaited by every child and so fondly remembered by those of us who have left.


The May Fair 

The May Fair is back,

But I’m not there.


On Facebook, 

The photos, old and new, 

And memories past,

Are shared.


Together, we remember the Walzer,

Between school buses,

The Fair boys ready to spin us dizzy.

The green Caterpillar hood crawling over,

Plunging schoolgirls into delicious darkness.

Those forbidden rides in school uniform.


I always went home

For May Fair,

But not this year.


The saving of pocket money,

Collecting of coins,

Pre decimal ‘Roll a Penny’,

Silver for slot machines,

Sixpence to hook a duck.

And guaranteed, a goldfish to take home,

Tightly clutched,

Swimming in his plastic bag.


Childhood was special

In May Fair week.


Going for the opening:

Oyez! Oyez!

The Charter Proclaimed,

The Fair declared ‘Open’!

The Mayor, in red and ermine robes, 

Comes down the Helter Skelter,


Chain glinting to the flash bulbs.

A rush of young feet,

‘He’s going on the Dodgems’,

It’s free rides with the Mayor!


I was there,

I was there.


The garish lights flash night fall,

The rides wind up the noise.

The shops, now grateful to be closed,

There’s little trade in May Fair week,

With Jets and Carousels outside.


Nearing the heavy, heady, smell 

Of petrol, mixed with candy floss,

Of toffee apples, burgers and hot dogs.

Generators tethered by snaking cables,

Pounding through our feet.

Ears thrumming to a claxophony,

Of shrieks and screams,

Piercing the Top of the (then) Pops.


I miss those deafening, 

Sense-arousing sounds, 

The warm, sweet and sharp

And onion scents,

The pulsating, throbbing of our

Fun Fair senses,

But now, there’s no way back.


Galloping on the horses,

Rolling with the Cake Walk,

Riding on the Speedway,

Bumping on the Dodgems,

Missing on the Coconut Shy …


Childhood swept away,

By the sale of home,

In May Fair week 


Mussels, prawns and whelks,

Tubs lined up, forks proud,

And always, Rocky Thompson’s, 


For nougat, honeycomb

And Grantham gingerbreads,

To take …



Where the May memories, 

And the Fair live on.

Pictured below are two newspaper photos, both of my father when he was Mayor, opening the May Fair in 1972.

What did you think of Ruth’s poem? Did it evoke any childhood memories of your own? You can share your thoughts with her in the comments section below.

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